How To Spot Someone For The Bench Press
I work out by myself most of the time. In fact, I haven’t had a workout partner since back when I was in college. The problem when you work out by yourself is that when you’re lifting heavy weights, sometimes you need to ask for a spot. Now, if every guy in the gym knew how to properly spot someone, then this wouldn’t be a problem at all. But unfortunately that’s not the case.
If you’ve ever had to ask for a spot on your bench press, then you probably know what I’m talking about. There’s just no consistency.
Some guys hold the barbell tightly during the entire set, never letting go, helping you move the weight up and down with every single rep. This type of spot effectively renders the set useless. The whole point of asking for a spot is so that you can attempt to lift a heavy weight with the added safety of having someone there if you fail. But by holding the bar and assisting you the entire time, the spotter is effectively reducing the weight load by a significant percentage. So who knows what you’re actually lifting?
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have the guys who forget what they’re doing and stare off into space during your set. I’ve had to shout, “OK, help!” on a number of occasions to my spotter to remind him that without his immediate help, I’d soon be pinned to the bench and requiring him to upright row the weight off my chest.
It’s a very rare occasion when someone spots me that knows exactly what they’re doing. I’m writing this article so you can be one of those people.
Let me describe to you how to properly spot someone for the bench press. The same principles can be applied to other exercises as well.
First of all, you have to understand the point of a spot. Like I said before, the entire point of asking for a spot has to do with safety. It is NOT so that the lifter can lift a weight that’s beyond his true maximum.
Remember, muscle grows as a result of overload – you need to lift weight that’s heavy enough to cause microtears. If a spotter is holding the barbell the whole time and lifting a large portion of the weight, then the only thing that’s being overloaded is your ego. Sure, it’s nice to think you have a 315 pound bench press, but if you can’t lift the weight even once without a spotter, then you can’t really lift the weight at all.
Safety. That’s the sole reason you should ask for a spot. So you can push yourself to new limits while knowing that if you fail, someone is there to help.
So with that in mind, let’s look at how you properly spot someone for the bench press:
Step 1 – Ask him if he needs help with the lift-off.
I always ask people whether or not they need help lifting the weight up off the rack before the first rep. This is often just a matter of personal preference.
Step 2 – Ask how many reps he’s attempting to do.
This will give you an idea of when you may need to step in. If a person tells you that he’s going for 8 reps, then you know that he should be able to get at least a few reps on his own before needing assistance. Likewise, if he’s going for a 1 rep max, then you need to be 100% ready to assist him from the second the set begins.
Of course, you should always be 100% focused and ready when you’re spotting someone, but it’s nice to have an idea of the lifter’s expectations going into the set.
Step 3 – Let the lifter do the lifting.
During the set, don’t even touch the bar. Let the person who’s lifting the weight do all the work. Remember, you are only there for safety – not to lift the weight for him. Stay focused and keep your eyes on the lifter the whole time. You never know when he’s going to need your help.
Step 4 – Help him out only when he needs it.
As soon as the bar stops moving, and especially if it starts moving in the opposite direction, place both hands under the bar and start lifting the weight up along with him. I start by offering only a little help first, perhaps lifting with just enough power to maybe take about 10 pounds off for the lifter, giving him a chance to complete the last rep almost entirely himself. If I see that he’s really struggling, then I immediately increase my force and help him quickly return the bar to the rack.
Motivating The Lifter – Yes or No?
Sometimes the people who spot me like to mentally pump me up during the set, saying things like:
“Come on man, you can do it!”
“Only a few more reps left!”
“Be strong! Be strong!”
Personally, I would prefer that they didn’t do that, but that’s just a matter of preference. And I’d be lying if I didn’t admit there are times when I respond well to it, thinking “Hell yeah I can do it!”
When it comes to motivating the person during his lift, just do what you feel comfortable with. Although if people suddenly stop asking you for spots, you may be overdoing it.
When you’re asked to spot someone in the gym, remember that spotting is all about safety. With this in mind, let the lifter do all of the lifting, only helping when necessary.
Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who do just want an ego boost from a spot.
Just a few weeks ago, some person in my gym asked me to spot him and said, “I’m good for the first couple reps, but I’ll need you to help me lift the weight from reps 4-10.”
I was a little confused about why he wouldn’t just drop the weight a little bit instead of having me do half the reps for him, but I did what he wanted and he was happy. A lot of people have big egos in the gym, and the weight on the bar is more important to them than whether or not they can actually lift it. With these people, I suggest just doing what they want, because you’re not going to change their minds.
In all other cases, follow the rules above and you’ll be one of the few who know how to properly spot someone at the gym.